IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-28

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 28, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Kanaan, Wheldon will be formidable again 2. High expectations abound in Racing Professionals camp 3. Mactaggert joins Indy Racing League staff full-time 4. Late Night...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 28, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Kanaan, Wheldon will be formidable again
2. High expectations abound in Racing Professionals camp
3. Mactaggert joins Indy Racing League staff full-time
4. Late Night with Buddy Rice

1. Kanaan, Wheldon will be formidable again: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL IndyCar® Series.

Dan Wheldon couldn't beat perfection.

Sure, it ruffles the former Bombardier Rookie of the Year that an IndyCar Series season in which he recorded three victories, 12 top-five finishes and led 433 laps wasn't good enough to top Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan for the championship. But, as stated, Kanaan posted a 2004 season that was as close to perfect as the series has seen.

So Wheldon will make another run, and expects it to be strong in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone. So does Kanaan, who singled out the 26-year-old Englishman as the main title contender. With 32 IndyCar Series starts in the books (2004 was his first full season), familiarity with the 14 ovals on the 17-race schedule and a naturally heavy right foot, Wheldon is bettered prepared to challenge.

"I think I just have to do the same things I did last year," said Wheldon, who started on the front row and finished third in the 88th Indianapolis 500. "But I had a couple of mechanical issues (finishing 13th at Texas and 18th at Milwaukee), and I got into trouble (flat right-rear tire late in race, finishing 13th) at Nashville. It was those three things that stopped me from winning the championship.

"It is just about being consistent. It's about making sure you always score points. I think it will be more difficult for me to be on the podium. I think I can do it, but I think it will be more difficult with how competitive the fields will be. If I'm driving as good as I think I can then I'm headed for a win."

Kanaan doesn't expect a repeat of the 2004 season, in which he completed every race (3,305) lap, won three events and finished in the top 5 in 15 consecutive races. But anything close in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone will make him a strong contender to be the first repeat champion since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and '02.

"Last year was great, but to me, it's over," said Kanaan, who last week became a member of the Miami Triathlon Team in anticipation of competing in a few events this year. "It's a new year, and we start from scratch."

Well, not exactly. Andretti Green Racing principals Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree had the foresight to press for personnel continuity within the four-car operation and not rest on their laurels.

"I've told the guys, 'Our five minutes of fame is over,' '' Green said. "We looked at every area of the team, addressed our weaknesses and added to our strengths."

That should bode well for Kanaan, who led 25 percent of the race laps in 2004. Motivation of the driver is not a concern.

"To win the championship last year, I still did the same things I did four, five years ago," said Kanaan, who has competed in 33 IndyCar Series events. "I didn't change anything. We just put ourselves in a position where we could achieve it. The same goes for this year."

Capsule look at Andretti Green Racing
Team owners: Michael Andretti, Kim Green, Kevin Savoree
Car numbers: 7 (Bryan Herta), 11 (Kanaan), 26 (Wheldon), 27 (Dario Franchitti)
Chassis/engine/tires: Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Team managers: John Anderson, George Klotz
Chief engineers: 7 (Martin Pare), 11 (Eric Cowdin), 26 (Eddie Jones), 27 (Allen McDonald)

Co-owner Kim Green's viewpoint

About Wheldon: "Dan's developed a lot over the last two years, and if he continues to get better, he's going to be tough to beat in a lot of situations. Dan is in control of his emotions when he's in the car, and that's going to allow him to handle the key situations and challenges of winning championships."

About Kanaan: "I know that once you achieve the ultimate of winning the championship then every other team is there to try to knock you off. There are a lot of good combinations out there -- and teams expanding to three-car operations. We're working very hard on the areas where we feel like we need to improve, so we're certainly not going to sit around and think it's going to be easy. We're going to work hard, but I feel good going into 2005 that we certainly have the drivers and the crew, and Honda will do a good job for us on the engine program. I hope that we can have more than two drivers fighting for the championship."

***

2. High expectations abound in Racing Professionals camp: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series

As the owner and driver of the No. 6 AERCON Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, Jon Herb has high expectations for the season.

"We hope to be really competitive right out of the box," Herb said of the Racing Professionals team. "The three races we did last year was testing the waters and getting ready for this year. That's behind us now. We're ready to go forward this year and be competitive and run at the front. That's what we're committed to and that's what this program is about."

Herb, whose diverse background includes a high school wrestling championship, Division I football experience, appearances in more than a dozen movies and television shows and a marketing position with a building materials firm, has been racing open-wheel cars since the mid-1990s.

He made 13 starts in the IndyCar Series from 2000-2002 with a best finish of ninth at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001. Herb formed his own team and raced six times under the Racing Professionals banner in 2002.

The team moved to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2004, competing in three races. After a 17th-place debut at Indianapolis, Herb drove the Racing Professionals' entry to sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the final two races of the season.

Heading into 2005, the team moved its race shop into the same building as Vision Racing and will have Larry Curry as team manager.

Curry is a 25-year motorsports veteran who was crew chief on Tony Stewart's 1997 IndyCar Series championship team.

"Having Larry is a big bonus with his experience and his knowledge," Herb said. "It's going to help us get fast quicker and be that much more prepared."

The combination of Curry's guidance and last year's on-track experience lead to high expectations for Racing Professionals.

Capsule look at Racing Professionals
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone
Owner: Jon Herb
Driver: Jon Herb
Team manager: Larry Curry
Chief mechanic: Joe Barlum

***

3. Mactaggert joins Indy Racing League staff full time: The Indy Racing League has retained the services of Les Mactaggart on a full-time basis.

Mactaggart, who has been the league's technical consultant, will serve as senior technical director and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the technical department for the IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

Mactaggart is primarily responsible for the design and development of the chassis, engine and transmission. He will continue to write the annual rule books and approve technical bulletins and memorandums.

Mactaggart's hiring allows Phil Casey, senior technical director, to focus more closely on safety-related projects, specifically the SAFER Barrier project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"During the last nine years, Les has served as the primary IRL liaison with the European-based manufacturers and commuted to races, open tests and meetings from his home in England," said IRL President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Barnhart. "His vast experience in mechanical engineering, incredible work ethic, and innate ability to work well with team owners, drivers, engineers, aerodynamists alike will be great assets in his new role with the league."

Mactaggart brings more than two decades of motorsports managerial and design experience to the Indy Racing League.

He entered motorsports as a factory manager for March Engines. While with March, he coordinated the design and production of the March Orbitor Indy car, the March Can-Am car and the March 811 and 821 Grand Prix cars.

From 1982-99, Mactaggart oversaw March car construction efforts that won five consecutive Indianapolis 500-Mile Races. Notable customers included Penske Racing, Patrick Racing and Forsythe Racing.

Mactaggart joined March's re-entry into Formula One in 1988 as coordinator of design and production. He joined Larrousse UK Ltd., in 1991 as director of operations, where his responsibilities included coordinating the design and construction of its Formula One cars.

Mactaggart received the Indy Racing League Special Achievement Award in 2002.

***

4. Late Night with Buddy Rice: 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will appear on "The Late Show" with David Letterman on March 2.

Rice, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, will present the "Top 10 List" on the popular late-night talk show hosted by Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner Dave Letterman.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network and indycar.com. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jon Herb , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kim Green , John Anderson , Brian Barnhart , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske